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Sima Shimansky

Sincerely Sima: Finding Time for Innovation

Don’t have time for innovation? This third entry in the “Sincerely Sima” Innovation Q&A series provides some tips for fitting innovation into your schedule, whether you’re an employee participating in an innovation program, a manager who’s leading one or a senior leader who’s tracking and expecting results.

Dear Sima, we want to be a more innovative company but find that the biggest roadblock to that is time. Innovation is not our full time job, but sometimes it feels like to keep people engaged in innovation, we need to commit a good deal of our time. Do you have any tips for finding time to make innovation successful?

This is a question we hear a lot, from organizations large and small, and across a variety of industries. Innovation takes time, and building an innovative culture doesn’t happen overnight. Achieving your innovation goals demands habitual practice. On the other hand, time is a precious commodity, and it can be difficult to find time to innovate.

The good news is, short bursts of activity can help make anything (even innovation!) a habit as long as they are practiced consistently. For instance, if your goal is to make exercise a part of your life, dedicating just 5 minutes a day for a few weeks can get you in the habit of exercising and help you achieve your fitness goals. Similarly, dedicating regular intervals to innovation can get your team into the habit of innovating, and over time, make your company culture more innovative.

Consistency is the hardest part when forming your new innovation habit, and the key to achieving consistency is setting aside time and not waiting until you “find the time”, because, let’s face it - we’re all too busy and spare time is hard to come by. Scheduling time for short intervals of innovation, actually putting it on the calendar, helps you commit to and achieve consistency and will ultimately get you closer to your innovation goals.

So how can you optimize your time spent on innovation and get the most out of the 15, 10 or even 5 minutes you’re able to schedule each day or week?

If you’re a Senior Leader or Stakeholder in an innovation program...

15 Minutes of Teamwork: Your Moderators and team leads are key to making your innovation goals possible. Their attentiveness to your employees, and the feedback they provide drives continuous engagement in your innovation program. So, if you can carve out 15 minutes each week to devote to this team, you can give them the support they need to make it successful. Regularly scheduled 15-minute check-ins are a great opportunity to quickly review evaluation criteria or impending deadlines, or make decisions about the most promising ideas.

10 Minutes of Motivation: Your participation in innovation sets an example for your employees and signals to them that you are listening. Spend 10 minutes contributing an idea or drawing up an email thanking people for their ideas and participation. Seeing executives contribute to innovation is a strong motivator for participants, and will yield a high rate of return on your investment of time.

5 Minutes of Research: In a recent interview, Al Guido, President of the San Francisco 49ers who was instrumental in the planning and construction of the innovative new Levi’s Stadium, shared his insights around creating a culture of innovation:

“I ask people to take five minutes out of any given day, close their inbox, step away from their computer, take a walk around the stadium, read the newspaper, and think about what is going on in the world...one article from the tech industry can generate ten ideas that can be applied to the sports world.“

Five minutes spent on research and strategic thinking about innovation, even unrelated to your field, can open your mind to new ideas and opportunities.

If you’re a Campaign lead or Moderator...

15 Minutes of Campaign Planning: Campaigns set the context for participation in solving your most pressing business challenges. We’ve found that the more well-defined your Campaign context, the higher quality ideas you’ll receive from your team. Spend 15 minutes scoping out your next Campaign: dig deep into why this is an important challenge and what criteria you’ll use to make decisions. A well-thought-out Campaign will pay off not only in the ideation phase with quantity and quality of ideas, but also in the evaluation phase, when you have a clearer path towards making decisions.

10 Minutes of Decision Making: Decisions drive successful innovation. Without them, ideas won’t see the light of day and ingenuity is wasted. Decisions and feedback are also the most important thing you can contribute to keeping participants engaged in innovation. Decisions let your team know you’re paying attention and guide participants towards better ideas. Dedicate just ten minutes to decisions and you just might be responsible for the next big project!

5 Minutes Requesting Feedback: A great manager knows the strengths of each team member, and calls upon the combined strength of the team to produce great results. By requesting feedback from others, you can not only save time evaluating ideas (making progress in just five minutes!), but you can utilize the expertise of your team members to make more well-informed decisions.

If you’re an Innovator or Participant in an innovation program...

15 Minutes on Your Next Big Idea: You may have been on a call with a customer, driving home from work, or even in the shower when your next big idea hit you. Take 15 minutes to expand upon that initial flash of insight. How will it work? What steps or teams are necessary to make it happen? The more information you can provide about your idea (pictures and video are great too!), the easier it will be for others to visualize it, and ultimately decide whether it can be implemented.

10 Minutes Supporting Your Team: The biggest perk of social innovation is the ability to collaborate with your team, providing support by voting on their ideas, or providing the feedback that can help make ideas even better. Spend ten minutes encouraging your colleagues and you’ll not only contribute to a more innovative culture, you may even make a new friend at work!

5 Minutes Spreading the Word: Spot an idea or challenge that your colleague would be really interested in? Share it with them! Bringing new participants into the conversation is a quick and easy way to get involved in innovation and help spread the word about all of the great ideas your team has come up with.

No matter how much time you’re spending on innovation, we hope that this Q&A series has helped you get a bit closer to your innovation goals. This is the last in our 3-part Sincerely Sima series, but you can always reach out to our Support Team for guidance at support@kindlingapp.com. We love hearing from you!